Fair Housing Act Guarantees Equal Opportunities for Everyone:  What you CAN and CAN NOT Say

 

The Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity (FHEO) creates equal housing opportunities for all persons living in America by administering laws that prohibit discrimination in housing on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and familial status.

The Fair Housing Act makes it federally illegal to discriminate in the sale, lease or rental of real property based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin. So, interestingly enough, there are some simple words and phrases that are acceptable and some that will land you in tons of trouble.

As a Real Estate Broker, Agent, Apartment Community Manager, Private Home Seller, Renter or Landlord, it is imperative you and your staff are knowledgeable about the Fair Housing Act and its guidelines.

Because we live in the greatest country in the known world, America offers its amazing diversity of citizens the opportunity to purchase or rent a place to call home without the threat of discrimination. Here are a few terms to keep in mind:

What You Can NOT Say

When advertising or showing property, stay away from using these types of descriptions:

  1. Student Housing; Mature
  2. Adults; Kids/No Kids
  3. Exclusive Community
  4. Traditional or Private
  5. Unmarried or Married
  6. Senior Citizens Only
  7. Empty Nesters
  8. Gay Friendly/Straight

These are terms that tend to imply a discriminatory attitude toward possible exclusion from a sale or rental. Be careful because terms like

  • Private
  • Semi-Private
  • Restricted
  • Traditional 
  • Integrated can be misconstrued as discriminatory.

 Try to be more specific and qualify your description by saying, 

  • “Private: Gated Entrance” instead of “Private Community or Subdivision”

Don’t use racial or significant landmarks of national origin when providing directions. Omit the fact that it’s near Arlington Cemetery or St. Paul’s Catholic Church. Give specific street directions to avoid confusion.

When describing the property, you have a bit more freedom. Tell your potential clients it’s a traditional brick home with a private entrance. Do they know that there is a mother-in-law suite and a second kitchen in the basement? Is the property secluded? Mention it. And don’t forget the large, walk-in closets, the private backyard and the huge master bedroom on the main floor. Attract business clientele by mentioning its potential for a professional or executive looking for the right place to call home. Non-smoker is even okay to use.

The term “No Pets” is tricky. No pets are fine, but if you are looking to rent the property the landlord must make allowances for those who require pets to assist them (i.e. the visually impaired).

It’s always a good idea to keep current and knowledgeable about the laws and regulations that affect the Real Estate industry.Thus far in 2013, there has been 13 HUD (Housing and Urban Development) discrimination cases.

If you would like more information, please visit the website for U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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